On a global scale it might be overshadowed by EICMA in Milan, but for bikers in the UK, Motorcycle Live, which takes place at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre, is the big one.
This year's show ran from 28th November until 6th December; I went along on Monday November 30th to check it out.
This was "Media Monday" and I was able to enter the halls at 9am, an hour before the general public.
I used the opportunity to take some photos and have some leisurely conversations.
When the doors opened for everyone, the four cavernous halls filled up as if by magic.
It was encouraging to see how busy the show was on its third day, and a weekday to boot; hopefully things are looking up for biking after a few lean years.
My first visit was to the BMW stand, as editor Rick was keen to find out more about the new versions of the BMW maxi-scooters, the 2016 C 650 GT and C 650 Sport (Report and Photos).
As well as new colours (I dig the Sport in burnt orange) and some styling tweaks, both the Sport and GT models are now listed as 650cc -- previously, the GT claimed 650 while the Sport was designated 600cc.
The GT now features BMW’s Automatic Stability Control, as found on the RT.
The pair are joined in the C series of scooters by the C evolution electric machine, with a 100 km range and three-hour charging time.
With their sport, tourer and adventure models, BMW have almost every aspect of motorcycling covered.
They also provide not only off-road training but a complete package for the beginner biker, including a helmet and riding kit, training for the UK bike test and the test itself -- oh, and an F 800 R to do it on.
Honda's big push is for the new Africa Twin, while the NC750 range gets a facelift.
What stood out for me was the number of models now available in a Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) version: the NC750 range and the oddball Vultus, the Crosstourer and now the Africa Twin.
The latest generation DCT offers three Sport modes (S1, S2 and S3) auto modes as well as the economical Drive (D) and manual paddle shift.
The Africa Twin also features a "gravel mode", which makes the bike less twitchy on unstable surfaces. Honda have invested a lot into the technology, and they obviously think it's the future. I'm inclined to think so too.
Soon after my visit to the Honda stand I stopped by VFR New Zealand , who, as you might have guessed, offer tours of New Zealand on Honda VFRs, to ask whether they had any DCT bikes.
"You're the second person to ask that in fifteen minutes!" I was told. (The answer: all bikes are supplied by a Honda dealer in Christchurch, who will do their best to accommodate special requests.)
Suzuki were celebrating thirty years of the GSX-R with a lineup of previous models and a brand new edition, while Piaggio's "Settantesimo" models mark seventy years of the Vespa.
Triumph were also looking back to the past with their new Bonneville, while the Tiger Explorer is bang up to date. There were a couple of these on my recent holiday; they're becoming a popular alternative to BMW's tourers.
A few brands were entirely new to me: Herald, with their collection of dog-themed models (Mutt, Mastif and Mongrel), small displacement bikes from Chinese marque Zontes, and three- and four-wheeled scooters from Swiss firm Quadro.
As well as checking out the new models, many attendees come with the main aim of recouping the cost of admission by snapping up a few bargains.
With the end of the season, retailers are equally keen to offload old stock, and on the final day the halls can start to resemble a rummage sale. New products are on display too, though.
Dane Clothing are newcomers to the UK whose textile gear looks worth keeping an eye on. Like Halvarssons (Sweden) and Rukka (Finland), clothing designed to tackle Scandinavian weather must be good at what it does.
Knox, best-known for their armour and the innovative Handroid glove, were demonstrating their Studio Collection, a system of armoured undershirts, thermal mid layers and outer jackets that let you put together your own custom package.
My trusty Alt-Berg boots (see the webBikeWorld Alt-Berg boots review) got their annual clean from one of the stands selling beeswax-based polish.
Motorcycle travel is a fast-growing sector, and this was evidenced by the stands selling books and magazines to help you plan your own trip or ride vicariously through others’ accounts, along with tour companies ready to take you to Scotland, Spain, or South America.
Even hotels located on favoured biking roads were finding it worthwhile to advertise here.
I caught up with my friends from Bike Normandy (see the webBikeWorld report on Motorcycle Tours in France), who were just about to put the kettle on for a cup of tea. Fortunately, the nice gentleman on the Dane stand had given me a promotional mug, so I was able to join them.
One aim of the Motorcycle Live show is getting more people into biking, with opportunities for kids and adults to try various bikes for free.
Get On offers free taster rides for newbies, while Honda hooks them even younger with their cute My First Honda Adventure safari for little ones.
More experienced riders could try Yamaha's MT-09 Tracer on the Dark Side MT Tour, or a range of bikes from Ducati, Honda, KTM, MV Agusta and more in the Test Ride Zone.
If you fancied a bit of a sit-down, there were stunts and Freestyle Motocross to watch in the arena, and a succession of guests and events on stage.
Oxford Products were offering prizes for getting a full set of motorcycle clothing on and off in the quickest time, which, as a daily commuter, I was tempted to try.
Finally, the NEC is conveniently close to the National Motorcycle Museum, who brought a collection of classic bikes to the show. The museum is a nice side trip if you decide to make a weekend of it.
The show gives a good day’s worth of entertainment. I was there from 9am until closing time at 5pm, and even without taking in any arena events, or test rides, I was busy all the time.
I’m still suffering from the nagging suspicion that I missed something. But there’s always the MCN London Motorcycle Show in February…
Publication Date: December 2015
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